Brandy, made by distilling wine, has been enjoyed for many hundreds of years. Cognac, the most well-known variety of brandy, is thought best served at room temperature in a snifter after dinner. Brandy is also commonly used for making sauces and to flavor soups. An additional purpose for brandy is to briefly set certain dishes – such as cherries jubilee and crepe Suzette – afire, for an exciting dessert presentation.
An interesting fact is that brandy was actually discovered while trying to lessen the tax on wine. The idea was to distill the wine, which essentially removes the water; and then add the water back in before consumption. Funny thing was that they found the distilled wine to be quite tasty before the water was reintroduced…and brandy was born.
Here’s one more fun fact about brandy…The original distillation methods were cumbersome, so a chemical instrument was invented to simplify the process. Then, to test its purity, a small portion was set on fire. If the entire contents was consumed by the fire, without leaving any impurities behind, it was considered an excellent batch. It was considered better yet if gunpowder left at the bottom of a bit of brandy could be ignited after fire consumed the brandy!
Significant production was first reported in the 15th century. In the New World, brandy was first produced within the Spanish missions in California. Today, American brandies are still most frequently distilled in California, where grapes are most prevalent.